Historic Kielder Viaduct back on track

09.05.2011

An historic railway viaduct in the depths of Kielder Water & Forest Park is set to come back into service as a main route for visitors and locals.

Kielder Viaduct is to become part of the Lakeside Way, a £3m trail that encircles northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Kielder Water.

The multi-user trail follows the 26 mile shoreline of the Northumbrian Water reservoir in Northumberland and is also the route for the hugely popular Salomon Kielder Marathon on Sunday 9 October.

Originally the Border Counties Railway that used the viaduct was a vital lifeline for small rural communities but it was closed in 1958 (* notes to editors below for full history of the viaduct).

Work has begun on paths leading up to Kielder Viaduct to allow Lakeside Way users to cross the viaduct, instead of using a public road nearby, before joining the north shore of the lake.

For visitors this gives new views from the viaduct down into Bakethin Nature Reserve and up towards Kielder Castle, which previously could not be seen from the current route the Lakeside Way follows. The move also opens up the viaduct to disabled access.

Dr. Geoffrey Purves, chair of Northumberland and Newcastle Society which owns the viaduct said: “Kielder Viaduct has been open to visitors for many years after the railway was removed but at present it is slightly off the beaten track and not easily found. It is great that we will be able to give easier access to visitors of Kielder Water & Forest Park.”

Alex MacLennan, recreation, tourism and communities manager with the Forestry Commission, added: “Kielder Marathon is billed as ‘Britain’s most beautiful’ – and the marathon route just got even better! We are delighted to have this as one of the main features on the Lakeside Way in time for the busy summer season and for the future as it is a truly breathtaking viewpoint.”

Keen runners still looking to enter Kielder Marathon can do so at www.kieldermarathon.com.

The work is due to be completed in June 2011. It ties into new developments at nearby Bellingham Heritage Centre, which houses two new rail carriages - a chance for visitors to gain an understanding on the former Border Counties Railway which ran from Hexham through Kielder to Scotland.

Kielder Water & Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was voted the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. For more information go to www.visitkielder.com.

For more information on Northumberland and Newcastle Society go to www.nandnsociety.org.uk.

For more information contact Philippa Clark, communications advisor (Kielder Water & Forest Park), on 0191 301 5538, 07970 897 756 or philippa.clark@nwl.co.uk

* The Border Counties Railwaywas built between 1855 and 1862, running from Hexham station on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, up the North Tyne valley to Bellingham and across the border into Scotland, joining the Carlisle to Edinburgh line at Riccarton Junction, an isolated settlement with no road access.

Running north from Hexham, the stations on the line were at Wall, Chollerford, Chollerton, Barrasford, Wark, Redesmouth Junction, Bellingham, Charlton (closed 1862), Tarset, Thorneyburn, Falstone, Plashetts, Lewiefield Halt, Kielder, Deadwater, Saughtree and Riccarton.

Originally intended to serve the colliery at Plashetts (now submerged deep under the Kielder Reservoir) and other small mines in the area, the 42 mile single track line eventually formed a vital lifeline for these small communities of the North Tyne for around a century, until it was finally closed in 1958. The Heritage Centre at Bellingham is now the only place where many mementoes of this lost railway are preserved. There are hundreds of maps and historic photographs of the line, its stations and buildings, staff and traffic, and artifacts ranging from tickets and sign boards to railway men’s lamps and tools and even the original Bellingham station clock!

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place for leisure, exploration and fun.

Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

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